This is one of those funny stories that are cemented in my mind, please, laugh along with me.
I can’t believe I used to be marching girl; a great New Zealand sport, you know the ones with the pleated skirt, the braided long sleeved jacket, the white lace up marching boots and the ginormous fluffy hats.
I used to, love marching unfortunately marching didn’t love me.
I can’t remember when I started marching but what I do remember was being dragged to practice in Western Springs one night a week after school, every week for what then to me appeared to be ages. But you know how things are different when you’re older, you would love to see time as taking forever to pass you by.
Mother would drop me of out the front of the school, then carry on dropping the other siblings to their various activities. Pretty sure it was a summer sport.
Arriving for practice at what then appeared to me to be a very, scary, large, school quadrangle, the forecourt was covered in painted hopscotch squares. The school was in Pointchevalier/Westmere near Western Springs. It was old then so I think it must surely be heritage listed by now.
I remember having to walk around the tall empty buildings to the back playground, looking up at all the windows, closed silent doors bearing down on me, feeling very frightened of these ominous silent buildings. Imagining that someone was behind them and at any moment was going to tell me off for being here. I was always early and had to wait for the others to arrive, alone!
I was early because mother had others to drop of, and yes I was last to be picked up. That was horrendous for a child who was incredibly shy, fought being left anywhere and very insecure.
I remember waiting after the lesson outside the chippy, drinking in the smell of deep fried food, yum, I can still smell it today, though today’s chippies are no comparison are they? People around me would drift away and I was still waiting, grubby men in their grotty cars would try to pick me up, ‘come on love come for a drive’, I would divert my eyes and pretend not to see them.
So every week I would rock up, follow instructions in a complete daze, I never have been one for focusing or staying focused. However I was a huge fan of the uniform, especially the fluffy white hat.
Drills drills drills, marching in sequence, saluting, turning, marching of in a magnificent display of some sorts you would think don’t you. Do you have an inkling yet of what is going to inevitably happen?
So much excitement with being fitted out in my uniform, we were in the school hall up on the stage, people were fussing, I so wish I had photos, but alas I think if there were any there would have been a ceremonial burn from my mother. I remember being pinned into the uniform ready for someone to adjust so the uniform fitted just right. The hat being placed on my head, the elastic under the chin just so, pinned ready to be tacked into place. The chatter the excitement and my apprehension, my heart slowly sinking, chanting to myself, ‘get it right get it right’.
I can do this I can I can I can?
So D day came, we arrived at the oval to a sea of marching bands, awesome sight, uniforms galore, colour, hats, banners, I can feel the sun was beating down on me, I was becoming hotter and hotter. Initially being very excited, I was able to participate in a group activity, probably a first for me, I don’t remember talking to anyone or having any friends, probably because it took a lot for me to speak, or for that matter make eye contact. I think mine was a silent childhood.
Wonder if they thought I was mute, probably, we type of child tended to stay under the radar, you get very good at it without realising what you are doing. Now you can’t shut me up, so I guess I am making up for it, sometimes I think though that I may still be a bit odd.
So after all of this training and practice, it was time to put it together and show the audience what we could do in this competition, we were aiming for a medal as you do. I remember sitting in the field with the team feeling, hot and sick in the sun, the sun by the way isn’t my friend. I remember searching to see where my mother was in the crowd on the grassed bank to my left.
I remember focusing on what I had to do, march this way, stop, feet together, leg raised, turn, listen to the whistle march that way and so on. Repeating it over and over on my head, I was focused this was going to finally happen I was going to succeed I was going to make my mother proud of me. I was not going to shame my self I was going to remember the sequence.
Well we stood up, it was our turn at last, the sun was still beating down, I was hot and thirsty under that bloody humungous fluffy white hat, which I loved. As we lined up, pretty sure I was at the end, I remember someone tapping me on my shoulder reminding me which way to go.
We waited waited waited for our turn, stood still arms straight neat as pins, the music started and off we went, all was well at first, I don’t know how long it took me to fluff up.
I remember focusing focusing focusing, following the girl in front, turning, turning turning, now the thing is by this turn there was nobody in front for me to follow, clearly not my fault as they should have put me in the middle.
On that turn I marched of in the direction I thought we were going, it felt eerily quiet behind me, I stopped turned around to see my team mates in sync going in the opposite direction!!!!!
Oh to live another day, my poor mother the embarrassment to be the mother of the daughter that let the whole team down, see I lost focus, my brain is everywhere. I remember thinking to myself, how did that happen, I was focusing I promise.
Never went back after that, was probably chucked out, and I only found out the other week that my mother was a marcher, so that is probably why I was entered into that world of confusion and focusing, not my forte. I so wish I could have succeeded but it wasn’t to be.
I don’t know that marching is a hobby anymore; guess you just had to love the uniform. But I do believe the sport may be strong in NZ.